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Trump and Pence in Denial as COVID-19 Infections Spike in the South!

On Friday, Vice President Mike Pence and members of the coronavirus task force held their first briefing in two months.

Dear Commons Community,

On Thursday, COVID-19 infections rose to their highest levels in Texas, Florida and Arizona, all states where the president, the vice president and their Republican allies urged people to return to normal.  Both President Trump and Vice President Pence seem oblivious to this new sad chapter in the pandemic.  President Trump made no mention of it yesterday during a business meeting at the White House.  Vice President Mike Pence and members of the coronavirus task force held a public briefing for the first time in two months. But ever loyal to Mr. Trump’s desire for good news, Mr. Pence tried to slough off the statistics that Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the task force coordinator, pointed to, showing surging cases and hospitalizations in Florida, Texas, Arizona and other states.

“We have made a truly remarkable progress in moving our nation forward,” the vice president said. “We’ve all seen the encouraging news as we open up,” he added, dismissing any suggestion that the outbreaks across the South should prompt a return to the shutdowns that Mr. Trump so badly wants to be over. “The reality is we’re in a much better place.”

Refusing to wear a mask even as the health officials next to him did, Mr. Pence described the recent outbreaks across the country as little more than the product of increased testing among younger, more healthy Americans who should be less likely to get seriously ill from the coronavirus even as they spread it to others.

“Very encouraging news,” he said.

Mr. Pence’s comments came against the backdrop of a very different message from Dr. Birx and Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, who warned of a broken testing system and said the outbreaks could engulf the country.

“If we don’t extinguish the outbreak, sooner or later, even ones that are doing well are going to be vulnerable to the spread,” he warned. “So we need to take that into account because we are all in it together. And the only way we’re going to end it is by ending it together.”

The return of the televised task force news conference — at which reporters were limited to only a handful of questions — revived the deep disconnect between Washington and the states where local officials spent Friday sounding the alarm and, in some cases, halting the reopening that Mr. Trump has so often encouraged.

Trump and Pence are in denial and their actions and the examples they have been setting are making people sick and dying.

Below is an excerpt from an article that appears today in The New York Times written by Michael Shear and Maggie Haberman that provides the source for some of the issues raised in this posting.

Tony

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“In the past week, President Trump hosted an indoor campaign rally for thousands of cheering, unmasked supporters even as a deadly virus spread throughout the country. He began easing up on restrictions that had been in place at the White House since Washington instituted a stay-at-home order in response to the coronavirus in March, and he invited the president of Poland to a day of meetings. Then, on Thursday, he flew to Wisconsin to brag about an economic recovery that he said was just around the corner.

But by Friday, it was impossible to fully ignore the fact that the pandemic the White House has for weeks insisted was winding down has done just the opposite.

The rising numbers in Texas, Florida and Arizona made that clear, as well as the reality that those are all states where the president and his Republican allies had urged people to return to normal.

In a reflection of a growing sense of anxiety over the new numbers, Vice President Mike Pence and members of the coronavirus task force held a public briefing for the first time in two months. But ever loyal to Mr. Trump’s desire for good news, Mr. Pence tried to tiptoe around the statistics that Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the task force coordinator, pointed to, showing surging cases and hospitalizations in Florida, Texas, Arizona and other states.

“We have made a truly remarkable progress in moving our nation forward,” the vice president said. “We’ve all seen the encouraging news as we open up,” he added, dismissing any suggestion that the outbreaks across the South should prompt a return to the shutdowns that Mr. Trump so badly wants to be over. “The reality is we’re in a much better place.”

Refusing to wear a mask even as the health officials next to him did, Mr. Pence described the recent outbreaks across the country as little more than the product of increased testing among younger, more healthy Americans who should be less likely to get seriously ill from the coronavirus even as they spread it to others.

“Very encouraging news,” he said.

But Mr. Pence’s comments came against the backdrop of a very different message from Dr. Birx and Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, who warned of a broken testing system and said the outbreaks could engulf the country.

“If we don’t extinguish the outbreak, sooner or later, even ones that are doing well are going to be vulnerable to the spread,” he warned. “So we need to take that into account because we are all in it together. And the only way we’re going to end it is by ending it together.”

The return of the televised task force news conference — at which reporters were limited to only a handful of questions — revived the deep disconnect between Washington and the states where local officials spent Friday sounding the alarm and, in some cases, halting the reopening that Mr. Trump has so often encouraged.

In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican who has resisted rolling back the economic reopening, banned drinking in bars after saying that patrons were not abiding by social distancing rules. In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott, also a Republican, went further, ordering all bars closed in the state. And Judge Lina Hidalgo of Harris County, the largest county in Texas, reimposed stay-at-home orders on Friday, calling the rise in cases there “a catastrophic and unsustainable situation.”

Taken together, it was grim news about a pandemic that is still a threat to the public’s health, the nation’s economy and the president’s political future.

At a time when his poll numbers now call into question whether he can win a second term in November, Mr. Trump faces the prospect that his efforts to boost the economy by shrugging off the virus have backfired. Rather than head into the summer with a country on the mend, the president will be forced to explain how his response to the coronavirus contributed to a resurgence of it that may force some Americans back into a painful shutdown.

And yet Mr. Trump made no appearance at the task force briefing to demonstrate concern. Instead, an hour after it was over, the president addressed a panel of industry officials, political allies and White House economic advisers for a self-congratulatory session about how successful the economic recovery has been.

In taking his victory lap, Mr. Trump made no mention of the increase in cases around the country, underscoring a message that he posted on Twitter late Thursday night: “Our Economy is roaring back and will NOT be shut down. ‘Embers’ or flare ups will be put out, as necessary!”

All spring, Mr. Trump expressed his impatience and annoyance with the social distancing measures that various states, and his own aides, were taking.

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He showed some concern when his personal valet, who serves his food, was diagnosed with the coronavirus and Mr. Pence’s press secretary tested positive. But since then, Mr. Trump has maintained a posture of denial and dismissiveness.

He has been enabled by a handful of advisers, some of whom share his desire to focus on the economy and some of whom are afraid of the president’s reaction if they press him too hard about the public health crisis unfolding once again in large chunks of the country.

The White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, has been among the chief proponents of keeping the administration’s public health experts largely out of sight, according to several senior administration officials.

But he is not alone. Even though they are aware that Mr. Trump’s mishandling of the virus presents a threat to his re-election, his campaign advisers agreed to his demand for the rally last Saturday at an arena in Tulsa, Okla., hoping the adulation he would receive there would snap the president out of a funk he has been in for months.

But at least eight staff members — including two Secret Service agents — tested positive for the virus before the rally, which was lightly attended and attracted none of the overflow crowd that Mr. Trump’s advisers had promised. Since then, dozens of campaign aides who were in Oklahoma for the event have been told to quarantine.

His advisers are now trying to figure out how to give Mr. Trump the traveling road show he wants while acknowledging the widespread fears about the coronavirus and allowing for proper health measures. At the same time, the White House has stopped employing the health checks it had been using for several weeks, like temperature checks for people entering the complex.

One of the states where the cases are rising drastically is Florida, where Mr. Trump insisted the Republican National Convention at the end of August be relocated to meet his desire for a large-scale event free of social distancing measures. As of now, Republicans hope to put on a show celebrating Mr. Trump, the first lady and Mr. Pence with three nights of crowds as large as 12,000 people in Jacksonville….”

 

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